1 pkg soy tempeh 1/2 pkg noodles (cheap-o spaghetti, in this case) a lot of olive oil lots of garlic several baby carrots several grape tomatoes a bunch of spinach (low sodium) tamari/soy sauce 1 pkg tom yum soup (in this case, "TastyBite" brand) several tablespoons of mango chutney 1/2 can of fatty, delicious coconut milk a couple tablespoons of leftover Baker's coconut flakes a couple dollops of honey some dried lemongrass liberal sprinklings of cayenne pepper
It sounds like a lot, but it's basically what I found in our fridge and cabinets, save the tempeh and soup which I had bought that day for no real reason.
When I make meals like this, I like to do them as quickly as possible and make as few dirty dishes as I can. So, I'll do things like cutting carrots as if I was whittling rather than using a cutting board (maybe not faster, but it does add a frisson of danger to the cooking). Or, I'll shock and offend Mrs. Nator by using pre-chopped garlic, in which case you have to just throw in spoons and spoonsful of it, but you don't get garlic smell all over your hands and cooking utensils.
Everything is made in one pot, one deep sauté pan and a colander. I fry up the chopped carrots and tempeh in oil in the pan while boiling the water for the pasta in the pot. As that's going I cut and wash the tomatos and spinach in the colander. I toss some garlic, coconut, chutney and soy sauce into the pan as I toss the pasta into the pot. When the pasta's halfway done, I plop the soup, coconut milk, and other spices into the pan and stir. The pasta's done by now, so I toss it, along with its hot water, over the spinach and tomatoes in the colander, mixing them together and just barely cooking them in the process. Dump that mixture in with the stuff in the pan and mix, taste test, add maybe a little more pepper or honey or whatever I think it needs, and voilà! Our weird Thai-fusion experimental dinner is served.
This went really well with both cold Hoegaarden (a reasonably priced but tasty Belgian witbier with a touch of orange peel) and peach iced tea. It could probably have served three or four people, but we scarfed the whole pot.
The best part about this kind of cooking is the sense of adventure and ingenuity it brings. If it comes out poorly, it's merely a failed experiment, but if it comes out well, you're a genius! Plus, since you can adjust it to taste as you go, most of the time you end up with a yummy dish. The only downside is that you may not be able to duplicate it exactly again if you really liked it, but that is outweighed by learning a set of flavours that go well together and having them in the stockpile of your mind for future experiments. I can probably make something very similar should I have brown rice instead of pasta in the cabinet, or tofu instead of tempeh. Maybe next time it will have green beans instead of spinach, pineapple and green peppers instead of carrots and tomatoes, or orange juice and a touch of maple syrup instead of mango chutney and honey. You never know!
Have you had any experimental meals, lately? Discuss!